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Snake Education and Community Awareness Program (SECAP) in Hoedspruit, South Africa

Save The Snakes supports Hiral Naik to mitigate human-snake conflict in the Hoedspruit area of South Africa. Hiral Naik is a conservationist, herpetologist and Africa Program Manager at Save The Snakes. She has assisted in the Save The Snakes efforts to educate and spread awareness about snakes through our various social media platforms.

Project Title:
Assessing human-snake conflict in north-eastern regions of South Africa using research, education, and engagement with local communities

Hoedspruit Location mapProject Background:
South Africa is home to a large diversity of snakes and less than 15% of the ~173 species are considered to be very dangerous to humans. However, due to a long-standing fear of snakes, many snakes are killed at first sight, regardless of whether they are harmless or dangerous. Human-snake conflict is an increasingly common problem and as human encroachment increases in many areas, the likelihood of human-snake conflict also increases. Snakes play a crucial role in ecosystems by maintaining ecosystem health and environments, however, their role is often highly overlooked. The north-eastern region of South Africa has a high reptile diversity and much of the region is also rural. The Hoedspruit area has been chosen as a focal point as it is a small town surrounded by rural communities in a region with high snake diversity and many snake killings. To create a local presence in Hoedspruit for our education and outreach projects, Save The Snakes and our partners, the Hoedspruit Reptile Centre, have created the Snake Education and Community Awareness Program (SECAP). SECAP aims to work with learners, community members and healthcare workers to mitigate human-snake conflict and reduce the number of snakebites that occur in the Hoedspruit area.

Although the Hoedspruit area in the Limpopo province is home to a large diversity of snakes, only six of the approximately 30 species found in the area are considered extremely dangerous including Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), Puff Adder (Bitis arietans arietans), Common Boomslang (Dispholidus typus viridis), Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica) Snouted Cobra (Naja annulifera), Southern Twig Snake (Thelotornis capensis capensis) and three are considered dangerous (no antivenom required if bitten) Intermediate Shield-nose Cobra (Aspidelaps scutatus intermedius), Bibron’s Stiletto Snake (Atractaspis bibronii), Snouted Night Adder (Causus defilippii). The Southern African Python (Python natalensis) is not a venomous snake, however, it can inflict a severe bite and is often encountered in human-snake conflict. Puff Adder and Mozambique Spitting Cobra are two snakes commonly featured in snakebite.

IMG-20200910-WA0042Project Summary: In order to assess human-snake conflict, a better understanding of the ecology and behaviour of the snakes within the Hoedspruit area is needed as this will aid in the way we educate others about snakes. The broad aims of this project are to mitigate human-snake conflict in the Hoedspruit area through:

  • Research on snake species in the area
  • Effective education and outreach initiatives to communicate the importance of snakes
  • Providing snake training and handling workshops to communities and
  • Educating healthcare workers at local clinics and hospitals about snakebite and snakebite management.

Research on snakes in the area will allow us to create snake identification posters and other educational material involving snakes that are encountered in the area. This will also allow us to create better science-based education material for communities in the region. By training key individuals from various communities, we hope to empower them to be able to translate the knowledge taught within their communities and act as snake ambassadors in their communities. Teaching individuals how to handle snakes and how to educate their local community about snakes will also create opportunities for other nature-based solutions. Hiral has received a grant from the International Herpetological Symposium,  Roger Conant – Grants in HerpetologyRufford’s Foundation and the Belton Mouras, Jr. and Dolores Ramirez Mouras Charitable Fund of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. to continue with her program in Hoedspruit.

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